Evening picnic at Carkeek

A deep longing.
Carkeek! Carkeek! Oh, Carkeek!
We’ll be with you soon.

Those who tramped with me over the last couple of years will know this trip to Carkeek hut had been a long time coming. 

My interest in the most remote hut in the Tararuas started turning into an obsession in 2023 on a new years eve trip along the main ridge, looking at Carkeek ridge from Nichols hut. A few months later, inclement weather led to an aborted Carkeek mission and turned into a pointless but memorable trip to Arete Forks hut, the closest to Carkeek we could get in bad weather. It was on an early morning of June 2023 when I saw Carkeek Hut for the first time, from afar: an orange dot barely visible from Girdlestone, on the way out from Tarn Ridge Hut. Later in November and December last year, private trips to McGregor Biv and Aokaparangi provided more opportunities to gaze across the Tararua tops and fuel crazy dreams of Carkeek hut. 

The plan for this second attempt was simple: a classic Northern Crossing, via Carkeek. Jamie, Lynsey and Sarah signed up and were promptly provided with the Carkeek countdown to keep track of how many sleeps were separating us from a night at Carkeek hut.

Thursday evening – Barra track to Mitre Flats hut

The team was briefed: this was no standard Club trip. We left the train station with the appropriate communal gear: a large stash of Lynsey’s special Carkeek Cookies (recipe below), a chequered red picnic blanket, and of course Jamie’s Carkeek or bust playlist.

Parked at The Pines, we waved goodbye to my car, which Leo and Amy-Lou would pick up a few days later at the end of their own Northern Crossing. The first laugh of the weekend started before even reaching the Barra track, as Jamie almost got blown over by a strong gust along the gravel road. The following few hours were reasonably uneventful, walking over stream 1, stream 2… until stream 7. Counting streams brought back dark memories of the Arete Forks siddle track, but this time we were walking with purpose: Carkeek hut awaited. Carried by the anticipation of finally reaching Carkeek, the dreaded Barra track was almost enjoyable – even for Lynsey who is known to describe it as the worst and most boring track in the Tararuas. As we reached Mitre Flats hut, the swing bridge swayed violently in the darkness and gale force winds. We got across but not without being spooked. Once at the hut, a hot cuppa and we turned in for the night. Only one more sleep.

Picnicking our way across the Tararuas:

Friday (aka Carkeek Day, aka C-Day) – via Mitre Peak, Waiohine Pinnacles, Lancaster, Carkeek ridge

We woke up to much more civilised weather conditions the next morning. After taking a first group photo that would set the tone for the trip (“Say ‘Carkeeeek!’”), we started a warm and sweaty ascent towards the tops, with bits of sun shining between the trees. It only took a short break at the bushline for the clouds and rain to catch up, and we continued towards Mitre Peak in the wet cold and poor visibility, but light winds. Shortly after Brokett, the rain stopped and the clouds started coming in and out allowing for glimpses of the tops, and in the distance – barely visible – Carkeek Hut. I turned to Jamie at this point and asked if she thought we would make it. “We have to.” she said, determined. Bailing was indeed not an option. As I had explained to the group the night before, we had to get to Carkeek. Having fun was only secondary on this trip!

We continued along the ridgeline towards Tarn Ridge Hut, slightly behind schedule. A little cold, we had a hot brew for lunch after laying down the picnic blanket on the table and having a first taste of the Carkeek cookies that would fuel us for the rest of the day – delicious. Gooey Biscoff and double chocolate chips for the win.

We made quick progress along Tarn ridge after lunch, but were slowed by the Waiohine Pinnacles. For the better or worst the visibility was still average at times, meaning we didn’t really know what was ahead of us. As the clouds slowly but surely cleared, we took in views of a very long looking Carkeek ridge. 

As we reached Lancaster on somewhat tired legs, we stopped for a break and half a Carkeek cookie before heading down the wrong spur for a little impromptu detour. Luckily Sarah quickly spotted it, and we were back on track following cairns down the broad but very steep and rocky spur. We were able to follow animal tracks as we travelled up and down along Carkeek ridge, sometimes battling high grass and tussocks. 

As we ticked over 12h of walking and 2,200m of elevation gain for the day, Carkeek hut came into view again further down the ridge. We were treated to a sensational sunset over the main ridge and took our time to enjoy the changing shades of orange and pink as we made our way down. 

We reached Carkeek hut just before 8 pm, tired but elated. The hut exceeded my wildest dreams – tucked in a small clearing, well looked after and stocked up, complete with charcoal, paper towels, pots and pans, picnic chairs, a hut kettle and decent firewood. 

As we settled in, we started a small fire in the woodburner and perused the hut book to find a few familiar names. We set up the table for a candlelight Carkeek picnic, and filled our bellies with lemon pasta and the last bits of Carkeek cookies to finish an epic day. Carkeek was in the bag. 

Saturday – back up Carkeek Ridge, Arete hut, Pukematawai and Te Matawai hut

We rose early to make sure we’d make our rendezvous on the tops with the other group. After cutting the picnic blanket in two and leaving one half in the hut as our legacy to Carkeek and its picnic, we headed out in the clag a bit after 7 am.

As the sun came up, the clouds started burning off and we were treated to more views of the tops. Walking up Carkeek ridge on fresh legs was much more pleasant than the day before, and we made good time back up to Lancaster while making regular stops to soak up the views. From there, we spotted the silhouettes of Leo and Amy-Lou in the distance, just reaching Pukematawai. Travel was straightforward from here and we enjoyed more views of Dundas, Bannister and the Twins, already dreaming of future trips. As I was duly reminded, there is a life after Carkeek. 

Within an hour we were at Arete Hut for a lunch date and key swap. We showed off our picnic blanket and traded tramping stories with Leo and Amy-Lou. As we continued over Arete peak and down towards Te Matawai we encountered civilisation again in the form of orange triangles and TA walkers. Having run out of Carkeek cookies the day before, energy levels were starting to run low and we decided to have a shorter day, rather than push on to South Ohau hut. This left plenty of time to demonstrate incredible and unexpected water tank climbing, team problem solving and plumbing skills to temporarily “fix” the tap and get water for the night, as well as replenishing the woodshed for future trampers. A productive day.

Sunday – South Ohau hut, Ohau gorge track and out to Poads rd

The night was chaotic. We went to bed without any hut mates, but that was without accounting for a group of very active party mice. Just after falling asleep I woke up to a loud scream – a mouse was running around in the dormroom and had found its way to the muesli bar in Jamie’s hip belt pocket. After that I put my earplugs back on, turned around in my sleeping bag and went back to sleep. It was only the next morning that I found all our packs hanging up high: a result of Jamie, Sarah and Lynsey fighting late night battles with the mouse while I was sleeping soundly.

We had a relatively slow morning and left the hut at 8.30am. We found some overgrown sections and decent windfall on the way down to South Ohau hut, as well as a pair of soggy overtrousers – which we carried down to the hut for someone else to take home once dry. After a relaxed snack break we started down the South Ohau river, the most ‘interesting’ section of the trip. While most of the river crossings were relatively shallow (only a few above mid-thigh), there was a fair deal of awkward scrambling on slippery rocks, around large boulders, deeper pools and fast flowing waters – as hinted by Daniel and Mon who were there just a few weeks before us. Travel was slow and we had lunch before hitting the junction for North Ohau stream. After that, it got a lot easier and faster, minus a couple of decent windfalls. We quickly got to the junction for the Ohau Gorge Track where we stopped for a snack, a quick river dip, and a blister care session. Minutes later we had passed the impassable slip and were on our way to the carpark. A few intimidating cattle and a bee sting later, we were at the road end where Leo’s car was waiting for us, along with a packet of McKintosh’s. The perfect sweet treat to end another epic weekend in the Tararuas.

Tararua tops.
Cookies and picnic blanket.
Carkeek Hut, at last!

Approximate times (including breaks)

Thursday night

Barra track: 3h

Friday (12h50)

Mitre Flat hut to Tarn Ridge hut: 5h45 +45min for lunch
Tarn Ridge hut to Lancaster turn off: 2h30
Lancaster to Carkeek hut: just under 4h

Saturday (8h)

Carkeek to Lancaster: just under 4h
Lancaster to Arete hut: 1h +30min for lunch
Arete to Te Matawai hut: 2h30

Sunday (8h)

Te Matawai to South Ohau: 1h30 + 30min relaxed snack break
South Ohau hut to junction for North Ohau: 3h
Junction to Poads Rd: 3h

Recipe: Lynsey’s Carkeek Cookies


  • Jar of biscoff (you’ll need most of it to make the best cookies). If you don’t like biscoff (hmmm we need to talk!) you can use Nutella. You could use half biscoff and half Nutella even (I think this was Jamie’s favourite idea)…. To be tested on a future trip!
  • Half cup of chopped, toasted macadamias
  • White chocolate chips 1/3rd cup
  • Milk chocolate chips 1/3rd cup
  • Batch of cookie dough (I used a bog standard box of choc chip cookies ready made mix- would recommend the New York style to make big soft cookies). A box of cookie mix made about 10 big cookies. The bigger the better I say!
  • Some cubes of caramilk to drizzle


Grab about a tablespoon of biscoff, roll into about 10 balls (you’ll use about 3/4 of a jar). Place balls in freezer overnight on baking paper.

When they are frozen, make your cookie dough as per your favourite recipe, or whatever the box mix tells you to do!

Add all the chocolate chips and macadamias.

Take a ball of frozen biscoff, wrap the good handful of dough around it and place on baking sheeted tray. You should end up with 10 cookies.

Bake as per cookie recipe, the centre should be soft and spongey. It will harden as it cools but should retain its soft centre. Don’t worry about biscoff leaking out, it will still taste delicious! 

Take out and leave to cool completely.

Melt caramilk and drizzle over your cookies.

Store in fridge if eating straight away. I froze mine for couple of days before carkeek so they wouldn’t go stale. They were still perfect! 

Enjoy a sugar biscoff rush up your favourite mountain! 

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